It has not been a great year for electric vehicles or the companies promoting them. Project Better Place has had a particularly rough time of it, losing their CEO amid flagging sales and delayed projects. The latest bit of news from Better Place isn’t any, well, better, as partner Renault has put its rollout of the Fluence EV sedan on “indefinite hold” in Australia while Better Place gets its act together.
Australia is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of Project Better Place, which has already launched battery-swapping EV stations in both Denmark and Israel. Unfortunately, sales have been just downright disappointing, especially in Israel, where Better Place has barely sold more than 500 EVs this year. Better Place’s goal of 4,000 EVs on Israeli roads seems far, far out of reach at this point.
Better Place is supposed to buy 100,000 EVs from Renault by 2016, but at the current rate they’ll be lucky to sell even 10% of that number. Combined with a business model that relies on membership programs and a serious cash crunch, 2012 has been a hard year for Project Better Place.
Now comes word that Renault is delaying the launch of its Fluence EV in Australia as it waits for Better Place to install more infrastructure. While GM has played with its own battery swapping system, Renault is pushing back its launch by anywhere from six to 18 months. In other words, Australia’s EV ambitions will have to wait a bit longer…
But don’t count Better Place out just yet. There are plans to bring an EV taxi service to California using Better Place’s battery swapping technique, and the upcoming Formula E series could utilize a battery swapping system that gives second life to Better Place’s business plan. But will this innovative electric car company survive long enough to see its plan come to fruition?